Does Humidity Affect Smoking Meat?

There is a lot of detail work that goes into making delicious tasting meat, and anyone who has truly earned their title of “Grill Master” over years of grilling, barbecuing, and smoking, and if there’s one thing you learn from decades of smoking meat it’s that there’s always more to learn. And getting that perfect smoked meat is about taste, about flavor, about the right smoke, and definitely the right amount of moisture in the meat.

Which brings up a natural question. Behind the question of “Does smoking meat kill bacteria?” perhaps the biggest question I often hear from new smokers is: “Does humidity affect smoking meat?” It’s a good question, and for someone who cares about getting the best tasting smoked meat possible,

Humidity can have a major effect on smoking meat, and is most noticeable at the extremes where too little humidity dries out the meat and too much can result in higher heat cooking the outside more thoroughly than you want. Humidity outside a smoker does not notably affect smoking meat.

So how do we use this information to have a better tasting, even more delicious smoked meat?

Smoking meat covered grill
Who doesn’t want to spend a weekend smoking some amazing cuts of meat?

How To Use Humidity When Smoking Meat

The biggest concern most of the time smoking is making sure the meat doesn’t get too dry. You’re keeping an eye on temperature and humidity levels to make sure this doesn’t happen but if there are issues there are some things that can be done during the smoking process to help out such as:

  • Adding a water pan*
  • Spritz from a spritz bottle
  • Wrapping your meat in butcher paper (aka “A Texas Crutch”)

The butcher paper wrap to help keep extra humidity in needs to be done at the beginning of the smoking process, and most smokers I know prefer to have the water pan in early, but how you use this with your smoker and your smoking techniques is something that is going to come with time and experience.

The asterisk to the water pan is the fact that adding a water pan doesn’t shove moisture into the meat, but depending on how you’re smoking, and especially if you’re using a wood burning covered grill, the water pan can help to catch grease drippings and prevent flames from leaping up to kiss the meat when you don’t want that so it indirectly helps.

A great video on whether or not you should use a water pan in a smoker, and what the advantage of doing so is, is right below. Cookout Coach has a great in-depth discussion on this very specific part of the humidity equation.

Finding your favorite set up means always having the meat come out nice and juicy, with all the extra flavor that comes with that. Keeping the right humidity when smoking meat isn’t difficult and the biggest thing is to simply avoid the two extremes.

If there’s condensation covering everything, there’s too much. If your smoked meat is even remotely dry, there was too little.

Avoiding the two extremes is all you really need to do in order to take care of the humidity part of the meat smoking equation. All the technical science stuff on humidity and heat doesn’t have a practical application to how humidity affects things.

The easiest way to make sure you have enough humidity is to use a water pan. This just takes care of that so you can test everything else you want about smoking to figure out how to get your signature rub or signature flavor or cooking style to get that taste.

Plus then you don’t have to worry about opening the smoker to spritz and then watch the heat because the pan will be taking care of it.

Winco water pan for smokers
This is my favorite one but it’s deep at four inches. There’s also a 2-inch deep model that might work a lot better for smaller smokers.

Inner Meat Isn’t Affected, the Outer Surface Might Be

When it comes to taste, there are so many more variables than humidity, assuming you don’t completely screw up and dehydrate the meat. However, some extra humidity can keep the outer bark from getting too hard, or if there are issues with open flames and “grease kisses” helping to avoid that taste from becoming overpowering as that can also ruin the smoked meat experience.

Smart Smoking with Proper Humidity

If you have to choose between the two, going with too much humidity is better than too little, but ideally you find that perfect medium. There’s not going to be a huge amount of difference in those middle ranges. As long as there’s a decent amount of humidity, then the meat should have the right amount of moisture for a delicious bit of smoked meat.

This isn’t a major thing to worry about, and it has an easy solution. So practice using that water pan as long as you’re unsure and you won’t have to worry about how the humidity is affecting your meat. You can focus on the rest as you learn to create the best smoked meat possible!

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